Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said that the seven banned actors run fake accounts on its platforms to deceive users and plant malware on targets’ phones.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has kicked six alleged spy-for-hire “cyber-mercenaries” to the curb, along with a mysterious Chinese law-enforcement supplier. It accused the entities of collectively targeting about 50,000 people for surveillance.
In a report (PDF) entitled “Threat Report on the Surveillance-for-Hire Industry” released on Thursday, Meta said that following a months-long investigation, removed 1,500 fake accounts linked to the spying entities’ reconnaissance of, engagement with, and/or exploitation of the alleged victims.
In addition, Meta has shared its findings with other platforms and security researchers, has issued cease-and-desist warnings to six of the groups, and has begun to warn targeted people in more than 100 countries.
“The global surveillance-for-hire industry targets people to collect intelligence, manipulate and compromise their devices and accounts across the internet,” the report said. “While these ‘cyber mercenaries’ often claim that their services only target criminals and terrorists, our…investigation concluded that targeting is in fact indiscriminate and includes journalists, dissidents, critics of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition members and human-rights activists.”
The spyware industry spreads far